PRIMARY school children are getting their very first taste of university life - with some as young as five.

St Margaret Mary Primary School in Kirklands Road, Carlisle, has joined an initiative aimed at encouraging children to try new experiences and learn new skills.

The school has for the first time signed up to the Children’s University project, which is a national scheme that rewards children for taking part in more extra-curricular activities.

In north Cumbria the project is ran by Carlisle College and sees children given their very own passport, which is stamped after they complete an hour of learning outside of school.

Any activity is validated, provided it links to a subject that can be studied in further and higher education.

Activities that will earn a stamp include visiting Carlisle Castle, Tullie House, or spending an hour reading in the library. Children need to collect 30 stamps to qualify for their very own graduation ceremony, where their achievements are recognised.

Lesley Dixon, executive assistant to the senior team at Carlisle College said: “It is all about raising children’s aspirations, getting them to be the best they can be.

“Hopefully they are coming back into school with more enthusiasm and talk about what they have been doing.”

Charlotte Francis, year six, said: “I think it is a really good way for children to go that step forward with outside school clubs and outside activities.

“It is a really good way of getting people to do more things.”

The initiative was officially launched by the school yesterday. Deputy head of the school, Luke Denny said: “Children can only experience greatness if they have great experiences.

“This helps us to develop the whole child, not just the academic aspect. It gets them secondary ready and introduces them to new places and new people. It also helps with the transition to secondary school.”